Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has demanded that the
outcome of the April 9-10 vote, which handed his center-left rival
Romano Prodi a tiny majority, should be overturned because of
Prodi has said he won the election fairly, but newspapers
reported yesterday that Berlusconi might seek a recount of more
than 1 million votes.
Uncertainty over the political situation has hurt Italian bonds
and depressed the Milan stock market.
And allies of Berlusconi cast doubt over his accusations, with
one coalition partner saying a review of the ballot would not
change the result.
Looking to calm the tensions, some senior center-right allies
said they saw nothing especially untoward about the election, which
was the closest in modern Italian history.
"(Vote) checks have always been made, but I don't think they
will change the result of this election," said Lorenzo Cesa, head
of the centrist Union of Christian Democrats (UDC), one of the four
core parties in Berlusconi's coalition.
Ignazio La Russa, a leading figure in the conservative National
Alliance party, also distanced himself from accusations of
"I have no news of fraud. I have heard of serious irregularities
but that isn't a novelty. They happen in every election," La Russa
told Radio Popolare, adding, however, that Berlusconi should never
According to Interior Ministry data, the center-left won the
election for the lower house of parliament by just 25,000 votes out
of 38.1 million ballots cast.
Berlusconi has refused to concede defeat, and earlier this week
demanded a review of 43,000 officially disputed ballots not
included in the final tally because of alleged errors over the way
they were filled out.
On Wednesday, he suggested the problem might be much bigger
saying "60,000 statements" of possible irregularities across Italy
had to be checked "one by one."
Under Italian law only votes officially registered as disputed
can be reviewed immediately after an election, but Berlusconi could
issue a decree to widen the scrutiny.
This would have to be approved by President Carlo Azeglio
The increasingly bitter standoff tempted comparisons with the
2000 US presidential election, when victory was handed to George W.
Bush following a recount battle in Florida.
"At this point it is difficult not to fear a sort of
Italian-style Florida. A long, destabilizing confrontation over the
regularity of more than one million votes," Corriere della
Sera newspaper wrote.
Center-left leaders have accused Berlusconi of stoking dangerous
"Berlusconi, stop poisoning Italy and delegitimising the
Italians' vote," Piero Fassino, head of the biggest leftist party,
the Democrats of the Left, said late on Wednesday.
No comment on fraud
The Interior Ministry, which oversaw the election, said just
over a million votes had not been included in the final tally
because they had been left blank or defaced. This was 60 percent
fewer than the number of void votes in the 2001 election.
Asked yesterday if he had evidence of vote fraud, Interior
Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said: "No comment."
Routine checks on the 43,000 disputed ballots are being carried
out by judicial authorities and are expected to be completed by
The prime minister said the review he had in mind would take
"several days" to complete.
The Milan bourse bluechip index was down 0.4 percent by 1130 GMT
while the yield spread, or risk premium, between 10-year Italian
and German bonds touched a four-year high as worries of protracted
policy paralysis in Italy weighed on its debt.
Even without accusations of fraud, Italy faces at least a month
of limbo before a new government can be sworn in because of
constitutional delays tied to the forthcoming election of a new
president, who has to oversee the transition period.
(China Daily April 14, 2006)